Ademption – Definition

Cite this article as:"Ademption – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated February 22, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020,


What is Ademption?

Ademption (also known as “Ademption by Extinction”) is a legal doctrine applicable to property that is passed in a decedent’s last will and testament (will). More specifically, it provides the rules for what happens when a decedent (testator) leaves property in their will that they no longer own or possess

A Little More on What is Ademption

Ademption exists under the statute of many US states or under the common law developed in that state.

If a testator attempts to bequeath property that she no longer owns to her heirs, the gift fails or it is “adeemed”. This rule allows for the orderly distribution of the testator’s property.

Ademption applies to specific bequests. This means property that the last will and testament specifically identifies. For example, “I leave my brother my Martin guitar”. This is a specific bequest of the guitar. If the testator no longer owns the guitar, the bequest adeems, or fails.

A general bequest would be, “I leave $100 to my brother”.  Because the testator leaves an amount of money, this is general. That is, the money is not specifically identifiable from all amounts of money in the estate. If the will said, “I leave the first $100 bill that I ever earned”. If the bill is destroyed, lost, or spent before the testator passes, the attempted bequest would fail or adeem, as the specific $100 bill is gone.

References for Ademption

Academic Research for Ademption

  • Ademption and the Domain of Formality in Wills Law, Alexander, G. S. (1991). Alb. L. Rev., 55, 1067. This article discusses how formality in wills law has been declining in the context of the doctrine of ademption by extinction.
  • Ademption by Satisfaction, Barstow, B. (1930). Wis. L. Rev., 6, 217. This is an article investigating a common law doctrine which decides the disposition of property present in a will when a testator gives lifetime gifts to the recipients named in the will.
  • The History of Ademption, Warren, J. (1939). Iowa L. Rev., 25, 290. In this article, a detailed history of how ademption came to be is discussed together with its development over the years.
  • Effect of Corporate Transformation Upon Ademption, Laspe, and Fiduciary Appointments, Evans, A. E. (1939). U. Pa. L. Rev., 88, 671. This is an investigation of three problems that arise from mergers, consolidation and other transformations that may be carried out on corporations. However, it mainly focuses on the problem of ademption of legacies of stock in a corporation that has undergone through some change before the death of the testator.
  • Lapse, Abatement, and Ademption, Leath, T. H. (1960). NCL Rev., 39, 313. This paper ascertains that the intention of the testator as to if there shall be a lapse is a controlling one. Such intent is to be determined from the four corners of the will.
  • Revocable Trusts and the Law of Wills: An Imperfect Fit, Newman, A. (2008). Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, 523-570. This article examines how in recent times revocable trusts have become the most common trusts in the US. Settlors are avoiding estate administration and making inter vivos transfers of their assets.
  • Ademption by a Committee of an Insane Testator, Ohlert, G. P. (2013). St. John’s Law Review, 20(2), 4. In this paper, an investigation is carried out on how remote the possibility of reversion must be to constitute the transfer of an absolute and complete gift during the lifetime of the transferor and not to be subject to the estate tax.
  • Wills–Ademption–Insurance–Right to Proceeds, Pridgen, E. C. (1952). NCL Rev., 31, 517. This study shows how the relationship between the death of a testator and the damage of a specific legacy may give rise to different results.
  • Ademption redemption: Restoring loss of benefit in a deceased estate, Williams, R., & Bassett, S. (2013). Proctor, the, 33(7), 14. This article presents the considerations outlined by the Supreme Court of Queensland which is relevant when determining the appropriate amount of compensation for the loss of a benefit of a person when the claim is made under S107 of the Powers of Attorney Act.
  • Ademption: Cracks in the Identity Theory Provide Opportunities, Stout, B. L. (1996). Prob. & Prop., 10, 38. This paper attempts to find out if opportunities can be derived from cracks in the identity theory.
  • Wills: Ademption, MPD. (1930). California Law Review, 711-714. This article defines ademption as a common law doctrine that is used under the law of wills to decide what happens when property under a will is under the testator’s estate no more at the time of his death.
  • Wills–Bequest of Stock–Ademption and Rights of Legatee to Stock Dividends, Magaro, G. E. (1965). W. Res. L. Rev., 17, 894. This study investigates the events that are occurring after the execution of a will and affecting the gift of shares of corporate stock to a legatee.

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